Message from Director

The ORCeNG is engaged in research to develop the deep ocean, the last frontier of the Earth, and to commercialize seafloor mineral resources including rare earth elements-rich muds and ferromanganese nodules. These are highly anticipated as the next promising source of rare earth elements and industrially critical metals that will support Japan's cutting-edge industries. However, no country has yet succeeded in actually developing such resources. The ORCeNG is working with government agencies and private companies to research and develop various technologies, from basic to applied, such as exploration, pumping, ore dressing, and smelting, with the aim of realizing the world's first development of seafloor mineral resources. The industrialization of seafloor mineral resources will lead to the creation and growth of Japan's own seafloor development industry and cutting-edge high-tech materials industry. We hope to establish a supply chain from mining to manufacturing in Japan and to make it the catalyst for the revitalization of Japan.

Such mineral resources are also an important recorder of the Earth's dynamic changes. If we can determine when, where, and how the resources were generated, we can clarify the cycles of various elements on the Earth's surface and the factors and processes that govern them. From our research, we have revealed that the global shift from a greenhouse climate to a cold climate during the Cenozoic period and also, the associated enhancement of bottom currents has led to the formation of "extremely rare earth elements-rich mud" on Minamitori-shima Island. In addition, positions of seamounts are also important factors controlling the distribution of the promising resources. By promoting research into the causes of these phenomena, we should be able to provide a scientific basis for where to look for resources in present-day oceans. The ORCeNG is working to create a paradigm shift in resource engineering that will enable us to "confidently" find promising resources one after another, rather than "by chance" as in conventional seafloor resource exploration. 

In addition, there is another important aspect of seafloor resource development. Onshore resources are within easy reach of humans and can be exploited by anyone. As a result, problems such as illegal mining and environmental pollution have arisen. This is completely contrary to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that human society is currently striving for. In contrast, only countries and companies with advanced technology and firm compliance can develop deep-sea resources, and proper management can prevent illegal mining. If Japan can lead the world in the development of seafloor mineral resources, it will show the world a new way of truly sustainable resource development. We will surely achieve this new resource development in order to pave the way for a future in which our children's generation can enjoy a prosperous life.